White Sox, Jesse Crain agree to three-year contract

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Peter Gammons, now of the MLB Network and MLB.com, is reporting that free agent reliever Jesse Crain has reached agreement on a three-year contract with the White Sox.

Crain, 29, posted a healthy 3.04 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 71 appearances for the Twins this past year, fanning 62 batters and walking only 27 over 68 innings of setup duty.  He may get a chance to save games in Chicago, a direct division rival of his former team.

The right-hander has improved the velocity of his fastball in each of the last four seasons, registering a 93.9 MPH average in 2007, a 94.1 MPH average in 2008, a 94.3 MPH average in 2009 and a career-high 94.8 MPH mark in 2010.  It’s rarely wise to hand a three-year contract to a reliever, but Crain at least appears to be in his prime.

No word yet on the total worth of the agreement.  Scott Downs got a three-year, $15 million from the Angels earlier this month and Joaquin Benoit scored a three-year, $16.5 million pact from the Tigers at the start of the offseason.  It may be something similar.

UPDATE: Crain’s new three-year deal is worth $13 million, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.  Not terrible, right?

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves